Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of college students diagnosed with neurological issues like autism spectrum disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. Some schools in the US have adopted measures to accommodate students with autism and neurodiversity. While the strategies may differ, they all target the fundamental problem.
People with autism, as a group, are less likely to complete their college education compared to their neurotypical peers. Adults with autism, once out of their school, find less scope for employment. Even if they do, studies have shown that their skills are largely underutilized. Anxiety and depression are markedly higher among people with autism than the rest of the population. Schools are meant to inculcate the skills one requires to integrate and attain success in the society. But most schools, sadly, are falling behind with regard to people having autism.
Whether there are now more students with autism, or more being diagnosed with the disorder, is a question that has not yet been resolved. Some recent studies suggest that the “older” diagnoses, like intellectual disability, have been replaced by new ones. Various other studies suggest that more children have been brought under the diagnosis ambit. But still, a significant number slips through the cracks and are diagnosed much later, maybe when in college. Evidence of actual increase in the numbers of people with autism is both limited and controversial.
But autism and neurodiversity is a reality. It’s time that the society takes greater cognizance of people with autism, allow them their rightful place in the society, and tap their skills towards productivity.